Energy & Environment

Trump administration rolls back efficiency standards for showerheads, washers and dryers

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The Trump administration on Tuesday finalized its rollback of standards for showerheads following a string of public complaints from the president about low-flow fixtures designed to save water.

The Department of Energy (DOE) rule was joined by another that creates a new class of quick-cycle washers and dryers that meet lower energy efficiency standards. 

“Today the Trump Administration affirmed its commitment to reducing regulatory burdens and safeguarding consumer choice,” Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette said in a release.  “With these rule changes, Americans can choose products that are best suited to meet their individual needs and the needs of their families.”

The DOE rule changes the definition of a showerhead, essentially allowing different components within the device to count as individual fixtures, sidestepping requirements that allow no more than 2.5 gallons to flow through per minute.

The measures were both widely opposed by green groups and consumer groups, who say consumers would use more energy and water by switching to the new products, wasting both resources and money.

“There is absolutely no need to change current showerhead standards,” David Friedman, vice president of advocacy at Consumer Reports and a former DOE official during the Obama administration, said when the rule was first proposed.

“Thanks to the standards, consumers have access to showerheads that not only score well on [Consumer Reports] tests and achieve high levels of customer satisfaction, but also save consumers money by reducing energy and water consumption,” Friedman added.

President Trump’s fixation on fixtures has been evident throughout his time in office, with him repeatedly bringing up his distaste for energy-efficient showerheads, toilets and even light bulbs and dishwashers.

“Showerheads — you take a shower, the water doesn’t come out. You want to wash your hands, the water doesn’t come out. So what do you do? You just stand there longer or you take a shower longer? Because my hair — I don’t know about you, but it has to be perfect. Perfect,” he said to laughter at an event in July on rolling back regulations.

“People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times,” he complained in December of last year.

The new washer and dryer rule sidesteps existing efficiency regulations for washing machines and dryers — many of which come with a quick-wash cycle — that manufacturers are already meeting. It allows the new class of products to meet lower standards if they wash and dry in under 45 minutes. 

“Consumers didn’t ask for this and consumers won’t benefit from it, in part because washing machines already have quick cycles,” Friedman said in a statement Tuesday. “This will undermine the existing rules by creating new classes of clothes washers and dryers, especially since DOE is not even setting standards for the new classes.”

In the final rule, DOE said it hoped the new class “could spur manufacturer innovation.”

“Some commenters may not recognize the benefit from saving small increments of time here and there over the course of a week or month and think that this rulemaking lacks value. But there are other consumers that do value this benefit and look for any time saved that can then be repurposed for other tasks,” DOE wrote in the rule, calling time “an irreplaceable resource.”

The Trump administration previously finalized a rule erasing Obama-era standards for lightbulbs and green-lighting lower standards for quick-wash dishwashers that were already meeting the old ones.

“It’s ridiculous for the Department of Energy to call these ‘quality of life’ improvements when they’ll actually harm America’s quality of life by needlessly increasing consumer water and energy bills and climate-warming carbon pollution while exacerbating water shortages,” the Natural Resources Defense Council said in a Tuesday statement. “These actions reverse decades of progress in increasing the efficiency of America’s washers and dryers and showerheads. It’s outrageous that DOE is finalizing these rules while ignoring legal deadlines for reviewing and updating energy-saving standards for 25 other types of appliances and equipment in U.S. homes and businesses.”

—Updated at 2:17 p.m.

Tags Consumer Reports Department of Energy DOE Donald Trump energy efficiency Natural Resources Defense Council showerhead Washing machine

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